Eye Contact

Salvator Mundi (Savior of the World) is a painting of Christ attributed to Leonardo da Vinci. When I heard that it recently sold for $450 million at auction, I had to see it. Of course, viewing it on the internet leaves something to be desired, but even on my computer screen, it is something amazing to see. For me, in this painting, as it is in many other paintings and pictures of Christ, it’s all about the eyes—his intense, penetrating gaze. For all time, artists have been trying to capture the power in those eyes, the one human feature that most clearly revealed Christ’s true identity, his true divinity. I have a hard time imagining what it must have been like to make eye contact with him, to be face-to-face, eye to eye with unconditional love. My guess is that it must have been wonderful, astonishing, perhaps frightening—all at the same time.

Probably because of the painting with those arresting eyes, I’ve been thinking a lot about eye contact—actually the lack of it in our culture. It only takes a moment to look someone in the eye and make that connection, but it seems we are way too busy for that.

Over the last week, I’ve made several trips to the grocery store—apparently I enjoyed buying ingredients for Thanksgiving dishes a few items at a time :(. Anyway, during my many shopping trips, I watched people. It was not creepy or anything because most people didn’t notice I was looking at them. More often than not, they had their heads down, either looking at a list or at their phone. If I did happen to make eye contact with someone, they quickly turned away before I could work in a “how you doin’” smile. Even checking out their groceries, most chose to busy themselves arranging sacks or digging in their purses rather than looking up at the busy cashier who was doing their best to get them on their way. It only takes a second to make that momentary connection—but it’s the holidays, after all.

As Christians, we talk a lot about being the hands and feet of Christ in the world. That certainly remains our mission. But, what would it mean, especially during this busy holiday season, to have the eyes of Christ, to give everyone we encounter a look that says you are valued— you are loved. It only takes a second to look up into someone’s eyes. A small gift perhaps, but a gift nevertheless.


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